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McCain slams Putin in Pravda opinion piece

19 September 2013, 11:08

Washington - Republican Senator John McCain is accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of corruption, repression and self-serving rule in an opinion piece for Pravda that answers the Russian leader's broadside published last week in an American newspaper.

In an op-ed headlined "Russians Deserve Better Than Putin," McCain singles out Putin and his associates for punishing dissent, specifically the death in prison of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The Russian presidential human rights council found in 2011 that Magnitsky, who had accused Russian officials of colluding with organised criminals, had been beaten and denied medical treatment.

McCain also criticised Putin for siding with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the 2½-year civil war that has killed more than 100 000 people.

McCain insists that he is not anti-Russian but rather "more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today".

"President Putin doesn't believe ... in you. He doesn't believe that human nature at liberty can rise above its weaknesses and build just, peaceful, prosperous societies. Or, at least, he doesn't believe Russians can. So he rules by using those weaknesses, by corruption, repression and violence. He rules for himself, not you," McCain wrote.

Siding with a tyrant

The senator submitted the editorial to Pravda and was told it would be posted on Thursday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the editorial.

McCain assailed Putin and his associates for writing laws that codify bigotry, specifically legislation on sexual orientation. A new Russian law imposes fines and up to 15 days in prison for people accused of spreading "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to minors.

On Syria, McCain said Putin is siding with a tyrant.

"He is not enhancing Russia's global reputation. He is destroying it. He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed, and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer, more peaceful and prosperous world," the Arizona senator said.

McCain also criticised the imprisonment of the punk rock band Pussy Riot. The three women were convicted of hooliganism after staging an anti-Putin protest inside a Russian Orthodox Church.

The article by McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, comes just days after the US and Russian officials reached an ambitious agreement that calls for an inventory of Syria's chemical weapons programme within a week, and its complete eradication by mid-2014. Diplomatic wrangling continues, however.

Last week, Putin blamed opposition forces for the latest deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria and argued President Barack Obama's remarks about America were self-serving in an opinion piece for The New York Times. Putin also said it was dangerous for America to think of itself as exceptional, a reference to a comment Obama made.

McCain was not the first US lawmaker to respond to Putin. Republican House Armed Services Committee Chairperson Howard "Buck" McKeon wrote in an editorial for the Moscow Times about the suppression of the Russian people and the disregard for basic human rights.

- AP


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